Dealing with the dead: understanding professional relations between archaeologists and human remains

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Katherine Crouch


This thesis examines the practice of UK mortuary archaeology - the study of past practices and beliefs relating to death, dying and the dead using archaeological theories, methods and techniques - and the impact of this work upon its practitioners and the human remains they encounter (Meyers and Williams 2014: 152). Using a mixed-method ethnographic methodology, it explores the specific triggers that underlie affective encounters between archaeologists and the dead, together with how these professionals 'come to terms' with the work that they do - facilitated by the transformative process of archaeology which sees human remains transition from the vestiges of past people to 'objects' of science, together with the cognitive techniques employed by individuals themselves - within a professional culture in which emotional detachment is held up as necessary prerequisite for effective work with the dead. In studying the attitudes that surround professional engagement with archaeological human remains and the ways in which these may affect professional practice, this thesis therefore addresses a number of fundamental questions surrounding the visibility and handling of mortality in a society in which the tactile experience of death and dead matter is arguably located at the periphery of 'normal' human encounters.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2018